Thursday, May 22, 2014

Meeting Up with Dear Myrtle

I continue to be amazed at the power of online social networking. Yesterday morning over coffee I was browsing through my news feed on Facebook. I saw that Dear Myrtle, Pat Richley-Erickson, posted that she was in Iowa City, heading west. I jotted off a quick message and asked if she and Mr. Myrt might have time to stop in Lincoln on their way home to Utah. Within minutes, we had a plan to meet later in the day at a restaurant just off Interstate 80 on the north edge of town.

Susan and Dear Myrtle - Pat Richley-Erickson
The Floppy Hat Genealogy Meet Up
The Ericksons kept me posted throughout the day as to their location so we could plan to arrive about the same time.

This was our first time to meet in person, but we've known one another for several years because of Facebook. I've attended countless webinars and hangouts conducted by Pat and have learned so much about genealogy and tools from her.

I must admit, I felt honored to have her and Gordon "all to myself" for a nice relaxing dinner and to share our thoughts and experiences about genealogy collaboration, technology, presentation techniques and more. I was thrilled they were willing to schedule time in their travels to spend some time together.

Most genealogists on Facebook will likely agree with me - over the years, you get to know your Facebook friends as well, if not better, than the friends you see every day. You keep up with the highs and lows, the successes, family matters - all in addition to what we share with one another about our life in the genealogy world. I've been fortunate to meet several of my Facebook friends over the last four years - either at conferences or by getting together when they were passing through town. There's no awkwardness because we already know each other.

Pat and Gordon are intelligent, kind and interesting people. I'm honored to have them as friends.

Mr. Myrt (Gordon Erickson) and Dear Myrtle
Lincoln, Nebraska

Sunday, May 18, 2014

My Kelly Family Heritage book on Shutterfly

I've been trying out some photo books on the Shutterfly web site. Here's my first attempt at a family heritage book.

Photo Book Tip: Create an adventurous travel photo album at

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Goin' to Kansas City! Kansas City Here We Come!

Actually, the "Genealogy Girls Gone Wild" weekend in Kansas City was two weeks ago and what a weekend it was! Back in 2010, I met fellow bloggers Diana Ritchie who writes the Random Relatives blog and Jenna Mills who writes the Desperately Seeking Surnames blog. We met as geneabloggers at the Family History Expo in Kansas City that year and became fast friends.

Diana and Jenna at the Midwest Genealogy Center
Independence, Missouri March 2014
A reunion has been in the works for quite a while. I actually got to see Diana in 2012 when she and a friend visited Lincoln in conjunction with John Colletta's appearance at the Greater Omaha Genealogical Society conference. I didn't make it to Omaha that year since I was looking after my Dad, who just had a stroke. But Diana, her friend Nancy and I got together for brunch, went by the home and business owned by Nancy's grandparents and then on to Wyuka Cemetery where Nancy's relatives are buried.

Jenna had all of the advance info on a conference that would be held at the Midwest Genealogy Center in Independence, Missouri on March 8. She assured us that the speaker was one of the genealogy rock stars we would want to see, so we began making plans to attend. Also included in what we referred to as March Madness was Susan Clark of the Nolichucky Roots blog. You might recognize her by her "right eye" profile photo on Facebook. Honoring her desire for relative anonymity, I'm not posting a photo of her here!

We were in touch via Facebook messaging daily, deciding what hotel to stay at, times of our arrival in the Kansas City area, extra curricular activities, and a research day at the Midwest Genealogy Center. Jenna was dubbed the cruise director of the Lido deck since she made arrangements for a Saturday night dinner with the conference's main speaker, Lisa Louise Cooke of Genealogy Gems, and Kathleen Brandt of A3 Genealogy. (yes, Jenna finally let us know who the speakers would be!).

On the Road Again

I made a leisurely drive to Kansas City, stopping in Nebraska City for lunch at Parker's Smokehouse. I can now say that I've eaten at all three of their locations! I arrived at the hotel late afternoon on Thursday, got unpacked and had snacks and beverages until Diana's arrival. While we all kept in touch with each other via Facebook messaging, I was ostracized by the others by having texting blocked on my wireless plan. Yes, I gave in to peer pressure and added unlimited texting to my plan once I got home!

Diana and I had a nice BBQ dinner out that evening. One HAS to have BBQ when visiting Kansas City.

Library Day

We met up with Jenna on Friday morning for our research day at the Midwest Genealogy Center, which is part of the Mid-Continent Public Library. Jenna had been telling us that we had to get a library card for remote access to the library's vast assortment of databases we could access from home. The card was $20 for six months and has already paid for itself. I haven't counted the number of databases, but I'm sure there are more than 100 available. Being the newspaper archive junkie that I am, I'm going wild in the archives of the Kansas City Star, New York Times and other old papers. There are also databases of history resources, maps, books. I'm a kid in the candy store!

Diana and Susan pretending to do research.
Photo copyright 2014 Jenna Mills, used with permission
We had to refrain Jenna from ripping off the map of Germany!
Jenna knows her way around the library already and knew we would want a tour. So we got a quick tour of the facility. What a library! An entire building dedicated just to genealogy. Okay, I admit it, I don't get out much, so this was the most impressive genealogy collection I've seen. (ACPL and the LDS library in Salt Lake are still on my "to do" list).

I didn't go with a research plan in mind - I just like to get acquainted with a place first. So I looked through some books with Nebraska connections and found a few items. One of my favorite discoveries was locating a photo of the drugstore in Lincoln, Nebraska that was operated by my great grandfather's brother in law. It was late in the day when I discovered several feet of shelf space dedicated to Blair County, Pennsylvania where my Pecht/Peight ancestors lived (for those who have been following the story, that was where my third great grandfather, the axe murderer, lived). That guaranteed another visit to the library later this year.

Susan Clark arrived and checked in with us and spent most of her research day looking at microfilm records. This was my first meeting with her and as with Diana and Jenna, I felt an immediate connection. Well, heck, we've been friends on Facebook for years, so it's not like we were strangers. Susan has one wicked sense of humor, which I like!

As you can see in the photo, we were wise enough to get a private research/conference room since we knew we would be chatting and didn't want to disturb other library users. The library is really user friendly. There are desks and work spaces throughout the facility, shopping carts so you can gather up the books you want to use. There's plenty of electrical outlets to keep your laptop or tablet charged. Microfilm readers and copy machines are set up to save images to USB flash drives. I will definitely come more prepared on my next visit!

Friday evening, the four of us had a nice dinner and talked quite a bit about DNA and genealogy.

Conference Day - Saturday

The "genie tech" conference brought us back to the library on Saturday morning. I hadn't met Lisa Louise Cooke before, so it was a kick for me when she spotted me in the registration line, waved and said "Hi, Susan!" Amazing what online social networking does! It's like we already know each other. Genealogy friends from Lincoln and Omaha were also in the audience and I touched base with them.

Lisa's topics included newspaper research, Google Earth, and using iPads/Tablets for genealogy. I had viewed her webinars on these topics before, but it was really nice to see and hear her in person. Lisa is a fantastic presenter and if you get a chance to attend one of her presentations, do it!

And Kathleen totally rocked it with her presentation on DNA. Wow. This was the first time that DNA was explained in a way that really made sense to me.

Saturday evening, we enjoyed dinner at a Mexican restaurant with Lisa and her daughter; Kathleen and her friend from Jet magazine; and Beth Foulk of Genealogy Decoded. I'd met Beth last year when she spoke at the Nebraska state genealogy conference. Sadly, my hearing isn't the greatest in noisy restaurants, so I only got in on about half of the conversation, but even so, it was a great evening!

On Becoming 'Maxine'

My "real life" friends know how much I b----, I mean complain, about the uncomfortable chairs and seating at conferences. I've left entirely too many conferences early because I could just not tolerate the horrible chairs! Yes, I am turning into the cartoon Maxine! I came prepared for Kansas City and ordered a "butt cushion"! I was surprised, but it really worked! If you are a fellow rear and back pain sufferer at conferences, I definitely recommend this! I will put up with the teasing I take, but I'm not going to any more conferences without my cushion! LOL.

GG Gone Wild!?

Well, we genealogy girls had a fantastic time, even if we seem to be the "early to bed" types! I had a blast and it was a great reunion with my blogger buddies. We all said that Kansas City is a pretty quick drive for all of us and we vowed to do this a few times every year. Next time, I'm definitely going with a research plan in mind.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Copyright or Copy Wrong?

Join me at Walt Branch library next Sunday afternoon for a discussion of how copyright laws impact genealogists. Learn what information or images you may use in your genealogy and how to protect your own intellectual property. Joining me in this discussion will be Jon Roth, who oversees the Edholm and Blomgren collection of photographs.

Sunday, March 2, 2014
2:00 - 4:00 p.m.
Walt Branch Library
6701 S. 14th St
Lincoln, NE

This presentation is hosted by the Lincoln-Lancaster County Genealogical Society.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Life Transitions and Family History

Readers of this blog may have noticed that I've been on a bit of "leave of absence" from blogging for the last couple years. From a high of 318 posts in 2010 to only 12 in 2013.

Some of you know that I had been my father's caregiver since 2004. His passing in November of last year was not unexpected; although I still thought we probably had another couple years together. I've said many times that I would not trade those nine years for anything. I was glad that I was able to help him out during those years. He had a stroke in October 2012, which made my decision to retire in January 2013 an easy one. I knew where I was needed most. No matter what, family comes first.

The last year of his life was difficult for him. Every minute of every day revolved around some aspect of his health care. My life changed a lot, too. While not having to go to a job every day was a relief, I still had a full time job, even if it just meant being on "stand by" for those times when I was needed. I didn't get out much, other than to get groceries or make about three trips to the pharmacy each week. If I managed to get out for lunch with a friend, my time frame of being away from home was about 90 minutes maximum. I would not have done things any differently.

The six weeks following Dad's death were a whirlwind of activity. Looking back, I still don't know how I managed to do all I did in such a short time. As I had been living with him for quite a while, many of my possessions were already packed in boxes and stored in his basement. I still own my own house, but that's another story! I knew I had some leeway in the amount of time it would take to empty his house, but I went to work right away. I rented an apartment for myself. I bought all new furnishings so I could make a fresh start. The only piece of furniture that came with me was my desk chair!

I had made some progress in sorting my family photos and genealogy documents into plastic file boxes. Since time was of the essence, some of the loose piles of paper got crammed into a box just to fill things up. As I was emptying out Dad's desk I found a gold mine of family history information and artifacts that I had never seen before. There were newspaper clippings, funeral cards, photos, a plastic bag of some of his father's personal items.

The day before I was scheduled to move, I discovered yet another box of items of his mother's - again, something I hadn't seen before, with photo albums, legal papers, certificates, you name it. I had no time to look through them - everything just got added to a box. It was bad enough that there was about 50 years of bank statements Dad kept, but he had also hung on to about 10 years of his mother's bank statements. I finally gave up doing the shredding, moved the boxes of items "to be shredded" and will either take them to a commercial shredding company or wait for one of the "community shredding days" we have during the year.

I admit to having been a collector/hoarder of books, CDs and DVDs. As I began going through my personal boxes I knew it was time to start walking the talk and downsize my own possessions. By the time I was done, 30 boxes of my books, music and movies were left behind to add to the estate sale. I've got most of my music available in the Amazon cloud and my favorite movies can be streamed on either Amazon or Netflix. Books? Well, I'm a Kindle user, so that was a no brainer for me.

My plastic file boxes were pretty well labeled. So much so that one of the moving guys said to me, "So, you do genealogy?" I wish I'd had more time to recruit him to join our local society!

I delayed Dad's memorial service/celebration of life for five weeks - until after I had moved out of his house, and just a few days prior to the estate sale. I'm glad I did because it gave me the time I needed to write my memorial tribute/eulogy, which I posted on this blog last month. I wrote it in one sitting, with just some minor edits a few days later. It's not something I could have written in only a few days after his death. And I wanted his service to be as perfect as I could make it.

The beginning of my family heritage center
I've been in my new place about six weeks now. A project that is evolving as I do an initial sort of those family history file boxes is the creation of a family heritage center in the entertainment center I bought. No 50" TV for me. I'm filling it with family artifacts. Dad was the last of my immediate family. So it's just me now. But I have this need to keep my family as an integral part of my life. I guess you could call it my mini-museum. There's not enough room for all of the photographs I've scanned, so I have a digital photo frame as part of my display. Maybe it's a bit self-indulgent, but it's my home and it's my way of keeping my family in my life.

I have a table top curio cabinet on order so I can display some of the items that belonged to my parents, grandparents and great grandparents. I'll post a photo once I have it in place.

My parents as teenagers, doing what they loved the most;
Dad playing baseball and Mom in her riding outfit - horses were her life.

It's been quite a transition. My life is no longer divided up in two hour blocks of time. I can spend time with friends, enjoy long lunches. I'm already planning my trips to state, regional and national conferences throughout 2014.

Because I've moved on does not mean that I love my Dad any less. He had a good, fulfilling life for a long time. Now, a year after my official retirement, I actually begin my retirement life - a life that will be focused on preserving and documenting my family history.